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Sailing to the World :: Review by Harry

Sailing to the World Album Title: Sailing to the World
Record Label: Sleigh Bells
Catalog No.: SBPS-0003
Release Date: December 25, 2002
Purchase: Buy at VGM World


In 1998, Yasunori Mitsuda left SquareSoft and decided to go freelance. Was this a smart and successful move? Indeed, he lost a reasonable amount of fans, but got back more freedom and choice. One of his first projects while working solo was with Square's Chrono Cross, and naturally this was a hit, now firmly established with many fans as his best work to date. This was followed by his contribution to a large number of compilations, arranged albums, and Shadow Hearts. His first major work after Chrono Cross was Tsugunai: Atonement. The score was released later under Mitsuda's own label, Sleigh Bells, but the name of the score was changed to An Cinni�int and the music was sampled on different modules because of copyright issues. Only a few months later, Mitsuda worked on a Taiwanese PC game, The Seventh Seal, composing only 11 tracks for the score. Its album release was titled Sailing to the World, and contained all tracks from the game, minus one battle track. The album had a variety of different styles, a reflection on the diversity of the world, but like An Cinni�int, the album was only appreciated by a select few. But what is so special about the album that makes it stand apart from most other Mitsuda releases? Why was it so underappreciated, and, most importantly, what are my thoughts on the album? By decoding each track separately, you shall soon know.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) The Door

The first piece on this album is "The Door," a musical mystery not so drenched in Mitsuda's standard fashion. It's clear that this track was partially inspired by An Cinni�int; the crystal clean atmosphere particularly suggests so, while the synthesizer programming is reminiscent of the top notch work found on the Irish inspired score. The most peculiar thing about this mysterious theme is that it doesn't sound like Mitsuda at all, but more like something that Hitoshi Sakimoto would create. When it begins, the rich string samples and the harp sound awfully similar to the Vagrant Story score. The pattern doesn't change, as, when it progresses, the choir enters and once more portrays striking similarities to Sakimoto's genius. But, even though it may sound alike, instrumentally primarily, Mitsuda made the piece his own by including an original composition that is welcoming and, not to mention, relaxing to his fans or listeners desire. One can quite easily cross the composition with the overall ethereal sense of An Cinni�int and the musically variable Chrono Cross; however, it's a piece of work and style that Mitsuda rarely touches on, and from personal belief, he pulled it off insanely well. On another interesting note, the final minute sounds moderately analogous to Motoi Sakuraba's compositions on the Star Ocean series. This rich track can easily be summed up as a mixture of experience, experiment, and ingenuity. Mitsuda's piece is nothing short of excellence. (9/10)

2) Sailing to the World

There's no denying it, when it comes vocals, Mitsuda has always been a hit or miss and this one is no exception. Most of the time, the composer chooses passable vocalists, Joanne Hogg and Noriko Mitose being perhaps the most eminent and standout artists he has hired, with Eri Kawai deserving of an honourable mention. In Sailing to the World, Koko Komine lives up to the standards. But I can't help feel that this song is somewhat one of the composer's weaker numbers. One of Mitsuda's best friends, Tomohiko Kira helps create the piece (guitar only), underlining Akihisa Tsuboy's violin exceptionally well, and with help of the 'wide' and ambitious melody, his guitar makes the track sound very exotic in the least. The instrumentation is fine, so to speak, and it's far more interesting than, say, "Pain" or "Kokoro" from the Xenosaga Original Soundtrack, which is released a month later, but it's missing something which makes tracks like "Radical Dreamers ~Unstealable Jewel~" standout in the crowd. Plain and simple, it sounds as if the instrumentals are on the mediocre side. Now, the most fascinating thing about Mitsuda's decisions on this album is that he made Komine write lyrics using a made up language, much similar to what Kawai does a month later on "Prologue" from the Xenosaga Original Soundtrack, but it actually comes to sound like Japanese, although that may be because of the singers accent. Nevertheless, regardless of the good performance and vast instrument use, it can't stand up and ends up being titled as only an above-average composition. Fair effort, Mitsuda, but it clearly is a miss. (8/10)

3) Melody of Aqua

Ah, for Mitsuda fans, this is the piece that you've been waiting for. Yep, we still get a taste of that classic music from our Yasunori amongst the diversity. "Melody of Aqua" is quite simply summarized in the title; it's a melody of water, and since water is, at most, calm and soothing, the piece follows down this terminology. The harp appropriately paints the image of a large mass of aquatic marine life, all living in totally harmony, and with the sleigh bells, an automatic sign of completeness comes to mind. It's a perfect effect. Of course, the Celtic flute enters to liven the scene, only making it more enjoyable, performing a short but melodic interlude which is nothing but pleasant to feast upon. We then travel back to the ideal aqua world with the smooth but largely synthetic violin and its short ambient-melodic routine before collaborating with the Celtic flute. The main problem is the short playtime. The piece only lasts for about 1:32 before repeating over again, and in the theme's 3:19 total time, it could have developed and presented itself far better. Sadly, this isn't the only track that receives this poor treatment, as a clear seventy percent of the album follows in the footsteps. All bad things aside, this is one pleasant and friendly theme that shows the more sensitive and simple side of Mitsuda. (7/10)

4) Rhythm of Red

If you want to make a successful piece, "Rhythm of Red" is a prime example of a near-faultless one. The theme is of Spanish nature, and has a fairly simplistic set of instruments for Mitsuda to work with, including a guitar and a live performer, orchestral synth samples, and various percussion instruments. This time, Kira doesn't return to perform with his guitar, but instead, leaves the honours to Matt Washimi who replaces him and does superbly. The melody is admittedly simple, but full of rich emotion, and flawlessly transmits into the strings of the acoustic guitar, making it a very easy listen indeed. The maracas and other percussion are outstandingly supportive towards Washimi's guitar line, and only help liven up the mood. When the strings enter, the atmosphere changes a little bit and now the listener should come to think that this theme would support more of a worldly environment, which is what Sailing to the World is all about. The ending isn't too bad; I like how the keyboards enter and give the piece a sort of cheesy '80s feel, although easily counterbalanced by the before mentioned guitar work. Like the previous track, this theme suffers from short track time and minimal development, even though, in the short time, it folds out nicely and instead of a standard repetition, I think it should have been further expanded. But oh well, what we hear is what we get. Without too much trouble on hand, I can safely say that "Rhythm of Red" is definitely ear candy and stands out on the album way too well for its own good. (9/10)

5) Path to Enlightment

The name to this piece obviously suggests that Mitsuda has crafted another of his well-liked and praised 'holy' themes, but on listen, I was severely let down. Why Mitsuda included this questionable track is beyond anyone's knowledge, but it stinks of filler. To break things down quickly, this track is heavily ambient, though not boring, with a large synth percussion ensemble and a set of ancient instruments for a tad melodic addition. What can I say? If you liked Mitsuda's ambient work on the Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack, then I have high hopes you'll like this one too, but, to me, compared to most of the other assorted and musically interesting pieces, this one doesn't cut it. But, with this mentioned, the theme evolves over time from boring and uninteresting into something more or less the same save for more effective use of the overall timbre. Towards the end, we can hear the holy effect that Mitsuda was trying to achieve, with the choir and ancient instrument combination, but it doesn't last long enough or fails to try and convince me to play along. Some themes just can't be good no matter how hard they try, and I'm seeing a lot of this in "Path of Enlightment." One of the weaker numbers on the album. There. Said. (7/10)

6) Confrontation

Here we go, the first of the two dark and action oriented pieces on the album, and, easily, it's the weaker of the two. As it's an undeniable feature, Mitsuda taps into his Xenogears experience once more to create this dark, moody, and expressive track with a very oppressive atmosphere. As we all know, the composer has never been known for crafting master battle themes, and, sadly, this theme follows rather closely to the normal tradition. However, for fans of the abovementioned titles, it should be a nice remembrance. Like always, Mitsuda inflicts a militaristic style, keeping the piece in well balance, although the compositional emotion can vary at times. For example, darkness and threat surrounds the opening like the plague, but as it looms the 1:00 mark, it keenly transforms into hope. This theme can also be commented on about the fantastic orchestral samples used; the synth is programmed extremely well, making most of what you hear sound convincingly real. Even so, the problem arises once more with this theme. Yes, it's the unbelievable track times and underdevelopment again, like a vast, vast majority of the pieces beforehand. (7/10)

7) Melody-Go-Round

You remember "Sailing to the World," the sadly mediocre vocal? Well, this is a soft instrumental variation of the enchanting theme. Like Mitsuda's main theme music box versions on his other Original Soundtracks, the fans will know what to expect, but for the newcomers in the composer's world, you'll find nothing out of the ordinary. Mitsuda uses an appropriately mellow flute to replace Koko Komine's beautiful and unique voice, and, to be completely honest, I feel it suits the texture and surroundings of themes better than the vocals. Surprisingly, the piano addition highlights the flute perfectly, bringing out the beauty in it matching the vocalists own purity from the main theme. The backing synthetic chorals are hauntingly divine, especially because the flute's melody is so beautiful and rich. When all three acoustic instruments come together and unite, it makes a perfect balance of simplicity. "Melody-Go-Round" doesn't suffer from poor development, being an [oece of an already nicely developed track. However, at times, it is just a tad mediocre and boring. Sometimes I might focus out, and then re-enter when the mind is completely anonymous to the music's presence. "Melody-Go-Round" is a success and, ironically, is better than the original vocal version, and even though it may be some standard Mitsuda work, it performs many wondrous things to the listener. (8/10)

8) Point of No Return

Before, we got "Confrontation". Now, we get something much better. Like the other its kind, this one is strictly enclosed in a tight orchestral style, and a few little bits and pieces along the way. As the dark journey takes flight, we begin with a sinister church organ, lightly leading us into the dark repetitive orchestral motif which remains always similar throughout the entire 5:00 length. Although this style is generally less approached by the composer, he adds his own flavour with the random voice sampling. It is very well known that Mitsuda likes to have wailing voices over his compositions, and some of the time, these additions can sound right out of place (particularly in his battle themes), but I feel the opposite and welcome the effect for this track. I also open my arms towards the Celtic instruments and the chaotic roles they play in making this track a decent success. Conversely though, I'm not too happy with the little melody, though this is not a problem considering the expert instrumental choice. "Point of No Return" shows us the point of no return for Mitsuda who has clearly proven his worth and skill on this short piece, further showing that his expressions of musical diversity are certainly unpredictable. (8/10)

9) Hope

Being an arrangement of the upcoming theme, "Reincarnation", which is one of Mitsuda's most intriguing tracks he has ever composed, I had quite a lot to expect. I liked the whole relaxing and floating style that the composer has gone for, making its purpose much, much similar to "Melody-Go-Round" only two tracks earlier, serving as a sampler for the larger themes. The main sentimental instruments this time include the piano and the bells. A worth combination, eh? You can very much feel the soft power, especially when it reaches the powerful chorus, but, even so, the power cannot be risen to the level of epic compared to the track that will success this one. After "Point of No Return", this theme is especially refreshing and is the most emotional found on the album, though, sadly it does suffer again from development problems, even if the melody was adopted from the vocal. But because we have such an outstanding simplified arrangement here, I don't think it will bother people in the slightest. As a theme so pure and small, it has a heart so big and impact so emotional. This is why I'm a proud fan of Mitsuda, because the simplest ideas go a long way. (8/10)

10) Reincarnation

This is it. This is the one track on the album that deserves a perfect score. "Reincarnation" is the second vocal track on the album and, without doubt, the better one at hand. Koko Komine returns to sing for this ethnic piece, with Tomohiko Kira arranging the guitar parts. Every instrument performs its duties almost perfectly, especially the piano and the electric violin, who only first appears coming into the center of the track, but Kira performs lovely repetition which you can feel clearly. Regarding the melody, it's one of those ones where you need to listen to it a few times before it becomes likable, but you don't need time to adapt to Komine's wonderful voice, in which, on this track, she performs brilliantly, as well as the idea of manipulating her voice several times to accomplish the initiative of a world and its voice. Again, the language is non-existent and streams well with the instrumentals, so don't get it confused with Japanese. As said on the previous track, the chorus is the most breathtaking part of the song, when Komine enters following one large epic pound from the drums to symbolize and make you feel the end is here. This is one of the more breathtaking moments from Mitsuda and impresses well enough that it can sends shivers down the spine. Kira also gets his moment to shine with the guitar breakdown at 3:30 just before the big finale following after. "Reincarnation" is a godsend to Mitsuda fans, no doubt about it. This is a piece that you wouldn't expect from the composer, but it's so influential and easily blows every other track on this album out of the water. It's something you need to hear to believe, and a prime, first rating reason why you should purchase this album. It's that good. (10/10)


Mitsuda's Taiwanese album is truly something to be admired, and something to learn from. While we get a whole array of different kinds of styles and instruments, the development of the themes could've been much better, as seen mostly in "Melody of Aqua", "Path to Enlightment", and "Hope". The average listener won't mind as they are likely to simply enjoy the music for what it is. It's also clear that Mitsuda adopted many of the styles from previous scores like the Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack, Xenogears Original Soundtrack, and An Cinni�int, but fused together, it sounds wonderful. I was surprised by both of the vocal tracks; one being extremely well produced and one being only average, but both weren't of the typical love ballads that Mitsuda seems to be addicted to. Komine was an excellent choice for a vocalist, being superficially better than Eri Kawai and more tolerable than Noriko Mitose, but I felt that with the accumulation of real Japanese lyrics, the songs could have been better and more meaningful, but I do appreciate the creativity asserted very much indeed. The question remains now whether this is the ideal album for you. Well, as said before, you're not going to find extremely awesome pieces throughout the entire album, but if you're the person in your family that likes relaxing constantly and appreciating a variety of musical styles, then this album is your lucky day. For Mitsuda fans, this is another quality album released from Sleigh Bells, so don't be closed minded and pass it up because the composer isn't working for Square anymore. Overall, this is an album for almost anybody to enjoy. Experiment and be amazed! Mitsuda scores again!

Overall Score: 8/10